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Prince Alwaleed says he struck 'secret deal' with Saudi government to be released

Alwaleed was the most high-profile detainee among 350 suspects rounded up since 4 November. [Getty]

Date of publication: 20 March, 2018

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Saudi Prince Alwaleed - believed to be among the richest men in the world - made a deal with the Riyadh government to end his prolonged detention.

Saudi Arabia's billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal said he struck a secret deal with the government for his release after spending nearly three months in detention during the kingdom's alleged anti-corruption purge.

Hundreds of people, including prominent Saudi businessmen and officials, were jailed at a luxury-hotel-turned-prison in Riyadh last November, during a crackdown spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who claims it was to tackle corruption.

The majority of those detained struck monetary settlements in exchange for their freedom.

Prince Alwaleed told Bloomberg TV in an interview aired on Tuesday that he reached an agreement for his release with the government but declined to disclose details of the "confirmed understanding".

"When I say it is a confidential and secret agreement - an arrangement that is based on a confirmed understanding between me and government of Saudi Arabia - I have to respect that," he said.

The process with the government was ongoing, he said, adding that he still held a 95 percent stake in his global investment firm Kingdom Holding.

Alwaleed was the most high-profile detainee among 350 suspects rounded up since 4 November, including business tycoons and ministers, who were held in Riyadh's luxury Ritz-Carlton

"I am not a person who is going to say I forgive but I don't forget. I say I forgive and I forget at the same time," Prince Al-Waleed said in the interview.

"It's business as usual. We are going to continue investing in Saudi Arabia. I was born in Saudi Arabia, I will die in Saudi Arabia."

Alwaleed was the most high-profile detainee among 350 suspects rounded up since 4 November, including business tycoons and ministers, who were held in Riyadh's luxury Ritz-Carlton.

The prolonged detention of Prince Alwaleed, ranked among the richest men in the world, had sent shock waves across a host of companies that count him as a major investor.

A Saudi official told AFP that the prince's release came after a monetary settlement similar to deals that authorities struck with most other detainees in exchange for their freedom. 

He revealed no figures. 

Attorney General Sheikh Saud al-Mojeb, however, has said that $107 billion has been recovered in the crackdown in various forms of assets handed over that included property, securities and cash.

Alwaleed also denied reports he had been tortured or subject to mistreatment behind bars. 

"I was never tortured," he said. 

"Actually, I was given the best service. Doctors used to come twice a day. We had the best service, best food, best everything."

Critics have labelled Prince Mohammed's campaign a shakedown and power grab, but authorities insist the purge targeted endemic corruption as the country prepares for a post-oil era.

Human Rights Watch likened the mass arrests to "extortion" and said the alleged mistreatment was a "serious blow to Mohammad bin Salman's claims to be a modernising reformist".

The Saudi government denied accusations of physical abuse as "absolutely untrue".

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